Geri L. Dreiling, Esq.
In law school, students learn how to write legal memos for partners, prepare briefs for judges and draw up contracts for clients. But not many ever imagine there will come a time when they must know how to write a press release for the media. Increasingly, though, attorneys are doing just that — yet few have access to the built-in public relations or legal marketing departments that are routine in most large law firms.
There are many reasons behind the growing interest in circulating a press releases.
From the promotional standpoint, a legal press release is a great way to attract media attention to a recent verdict or settlement and a useful and economical vehicle for announcing new hires, awards or honors that will be picked up by local newspapers, trade publications and alumni magazines.
A legal press release also confers search engine optimization advantages. When uploaded to a law firm’s website, it provides a new page of fresh content. (With Google’s recent search engine updates, fresh content has become even important.) When circulated through a site such as BusinessWire, the legal news release provides an immediate search engine boost and inbound links to the law firm’s website.
In this blog entry I’ll discuss some of the basic elements of a press release that deserve particular attention during the drafting process. You’ll want to make sure you include these items in a press release that is ideally no more than 400 words.
1. Headline and subhead
The headline should include the law firm’s name and a brief description that immediately lets the reader know the type of release he or she is reading. Does it cover a verdict or suit filing, or announce the hiring of a new associate? The subhead should provide further detail.
In addition, the reader should be able to scan the heading and subhead to obtain a concise synopsis of the remainder of the release.
For SEO purposes, the headline and subhead are an ideal place to insert keywords. In addition to the firm’s name, be sure to include practice area keywords.
The nut graph, the first paragraph of the release, concisely explains the news value of the story. It sums up the entire point of the release in a sentence. Writing the nut graph can feel counterintuitive to lawyers, who are trained to lay out the logic before writing the conclusion. It feels, in some respects, like delivering the punchline of a joke and then providing the setup.
A good reporter independently verifies the information contained in the legal press release. You can make his or her job easier by including a few obvious elements, especially if the release pertains to a verdict, settlement or suit filing:
- Style of the case
- Case number
- Filing date
- Verdict date
- The court in which the case was filed
Consider the legal press release as another tool for educating the media and potential clients about your practice. Include a brief paragraph summarizing your practice areas. Hyperlink your law firm’s website and include a phone number and e-mail address.
Here’s a link to the Breaking News section of our website which contains both of the releases used for this blog post. If you would prefer to outsource your press release writing, contact Legal Media Matters; we prepare and circulate releases for law firms nationwide.
For more information, contact me by filling out the online contact form, calling or sending an e-mail to email@example.com.
At Legal Media Matters, we provide legal public relations, law firm marketing and attorney website content writing services.